TEHRAN: Iran says the new coronavirus has killed 63 more people, raising the death toll to 354 amid over 9,000 cases in the Islamic Republic.
That’s according to a Health Ministry spokesman who spoke in a live, televised news conference on Wednesday.
The Islamic Republic’s senior vice president and two other Cabinet members have the new coronavirus, Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency reported on Wednesday.
The report by Fars, believed to be close to Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, comes amid days of speculation about the health of Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.
Jahangiri has not been seen in pictures of recent top level meetings.
Fars says the others sick are Ali Asghar Mounesan, minister of cultural heritage, handcrafts and tourism, and Reza Rahmani, minister of industry, mines and business.
Across the Mideast, more than 9,000 people have contracted the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes. The majority come from hard-hit Iran, which has one of the world’s worst death tolls outside of China, the source of the outbreak.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard says at least five of its members and an unspecified number of the Guard’s volunteer Basij force.
Iran’s supreme leader had said Tuesday that the Islamic Republic will recognize doctors and nurses who die combating the new coronavirus as “martyrs” like slain soldiers.
The decision by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comes amid a propaganda campaign already trying to link the fight against the virus to Iran’s long, bloody 1980s war with Iraq. The rising casualty figures each day in Iran suggest the fight against the new coronavirus is far from over.
That the Guard is involved in the relief effort of a major catastrophe is not surprising in Iran. The Guard, whose forces include an estimated 125,000-plus troops and 600,000 mission-ready volunteers, routinely respond to the earthquakes that shake the country. Recent floods saw its troops mobilize as well.
Its forces, which include virologists, faced chemical weapons during Iran’s eight-year war against Iraq.